Lighting Industry: A Classical Case of Innovation

Haustein, H.-D. (1980). Lighting Industry: A Classical Case of Innovation. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-80-012

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Exactly one hundred years ago Edison launched modern electrical lighting. He began studying the problem in 1877, and within a year and a half had made more than 1,200 experiments. Concurrently, recognizing that the series wiring systems then used for arc lights would not be satisfactory for incandescent lamps, Edison directed much more effort toward development of dynamos and other necessary equipment for multiple circuits.

On October 21st, 1879, Edison lighted a lamp containing a carbonized thread for the filament. The lamp burned steadily for two days. Later he learned that filaments of carbonized visiting card paper (Bristol board) would give several hundred hours life. Soon carbonized bamboo was found acceptable and was used as the filament material. Extruded cellulose filaments were introduced by Swan in 1883. The first complete incandescent lighting system was publicly demonstrated at Edison's laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, on December 21st, 1879.

Edison was not only a great inventor, he was also a real innovator and entrepreneur. He determined the price of the lamp at a level of 40 cents despite the fact that the cost of one lamp at the beginning was 1.25 dollars. After three year's production he reduced the cost to 37 cents and more than compensated for all losses by an enormous turnover.

The case of the lighting industry is very informative for innovation and industrial policy. The lighting industry first became the mother of electrical engineering, but later it was a highly specialized industry of less importance. On the other hand it still satisfies a quite important need. What might the future of the lighting industry be?

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: Management and Technology Area (MMT)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 01:48
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:10

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